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Tried and tasted: This place serves the best saag meat in Delhi

The saag meat at Bhape Da Hotel is prepared with finely blended spinach leaves, which really thicken the gravy. And what adds to the taste is the fact that it’s hot and served with ‘kadak’ rotis just off the tandoor.

tried and tasted Updated: May 20, 2018 08:32 IST
Rahul Verma
Rahul Verma
Hindustan Times
Tried and tasted,Rahul Verma,Food
Saag meat is one of Bhape Da hotel’s USPs.(HT photo)

If you lived in Delhi way back in time, as I did off and on, you would have seen a small fire with people huddled around it in some residential colonies of the city. These were areas where refugees from Punjab were relocated. In many of these neighbourhoods, there were community tandoors. Women of the house, or often the children, would take some kneaded dough and go to the tandoor, and there a man would turn the ‘atta’ into hot, baked rotis for a few coins. My first Punjabi-style dal came from there, too – it was simple, but delicious because it had been cooked over a slow fire.

If you look at Delhi now, it’s difficult to imagine how there were hardly any restaurants in the city then. But among the first to come up – and stay in people’s hearts – were Kake Da Hotel and Bhape Da Hotel in Yusuf Zai Market, facing the outer circle of Connaught Place. We used to go to the two dhabas for chicken curry and saag meat.

I went back to Bhape Da Hotel for its saag meat and recalled, with great pleasure, the meals we had there when we wore our hair long, and our flares wide. The meat dish is as good as ever, even though the place is tiny, with narrow spaces where tables and chairs are placed for people to have a quick, but hearty meal.

The food here is robust. It is cooked with good amounts of oil and some basic spices. The dishes are kept in large utensils in the front of the dhaba, and the servers come carrying stacks of hot and crisp tandoori rotis, being baked somewhere at the back.

The menu is small. It includes saag meat, butter chicken, dahi-wallah roganjosh and brain curry, and some vegetarian dishes such as palak paneer, palak kofta and tomato paneer.

But people mostly go there for the lamb cooked with spinach leaves or the butter chicken, cooked in oodles of butter and with tomatoes and cream.

I like saag meat, and try it out often at home. The spinach leaves, which I shred as well as puree, add colour, consistency and taste to the gravy. And because it’s a green-leafy vegetable, you don’t feel all that guilty about consuming red meat.

Bhape’s saag meat has not buckled under pressure. It brings alive a slice of the city’s history. (HT photo)

The saag meat at Bhape Da Hotel is prepared with finely blended spinach leaves, which really thicken the gravy. What I like about it is that it’s not very spicy. And what adds to the taste is the fact that it’s hot and served with ‘kadak’ rotis just off the tandoor.

It reminds me a bit of Sardarji meat-walley, who sat behind a gate in Kashmiri Gate, cooking rotis on a tawa, and doling out his kofta and mutton with a saag curry.

Likewise, saag meat is one of Bhape Da hotel’s USPs. Along with Kake Da Hotel, it is one of the icons of Delhi. The city may have changed, but Bhape’s saag meat has not buckled under pressure. It brings alive a slice of the city’s history.

RECIPE: Saag meat

Ingredients: 1 kg mutton, cut into small pieces, 750g spinach, oil as required, salt to taste, 3 tomatoes chopped, 2 onions chopped, 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste, 1tsp red chili powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder, 5 black peppercorns, 2 cloves, 1-inch piece of cinnamon, 2 large cardamoms, 1/2tsp cumin seeds, 2 green chilies

Method: Steam the spinach. Blend it in a mixer. Keep aside. Heat oil in a wok. Fry onions till brown, and then add the ginger-garlic paste. Put all the whole masalas and stir. Add the powdered masalas and stir some more. Put the tomatoes and fry till the oil comes up. Now add the lamb and cook well. Put 3 cups of water and cover. Cook on slow heat, stirring occasionally. When almost done, put the spinach in the gravy. Let it simmer. Stir till the water evaporates. Garnish with chopped green chilies.

First Published: May 20, 2018 08:32 IST